Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

February 12, 2013

Proposed Unit 50 cuts draw more concern

Bill Grimes
Effingham Daily News

TEUTOPOLIS — Teutopolis Unit 50 officials have repeatedly talked about the need to cut sizable amounts of money for the 2013-14 school year.

While the Unit 50 board had originally planned to cut about $831,000, board members said Monday that wasn't enough. Instead, the school district would seek to cut about $1.02 million.

Board President Marty Siemer told a crowd of about 85 people packed into the high school media center for Monday's regular monthly board meeting that the need for additional cuts would force the district to close Teutopolis Junior High School, discontinue boys and girls golf, shut down fall baseball on the high school and junior high levels, and drop girls freshman-sophomore basketball.

Other cuts include dropping one second-grade teaching position from full to half-time, eliminating the Distributive Occupations program and shuttering the summer library program.

In addition, the board has proposed increasing the driver's education fee from $50 to $250, athletic participation fees from $25 to $100 and increase registration fees $10 for all grade levels.

Even those cuts won't give Unit 50 a balanced budget, according to figures released Monday. With the school district expected to lose more than $620,000 in general state aid because of the state's financial condition, Unit 50 officials expect to still see a budget deficit of around $480,000.

Unit 50 has been hit hard by decreasing enrollment, which also correlates into a decrease in general state aid. The school district has seen its enrollment drop by one-third in the past 15 years.

For example, even with junior high students moving into the grade school next year, the building's enrollment will still be less than what it was before the junior high school was opened in the late 1990s.

Board member Carl Repking told the crowd none of these proposed cuts were desirable to any board member.

"We are not in favor of any of these cuts," Repking said. "These were very difficult decisions to make, but we have a responsibility to the community.

"We have been able to afford these things for years, but now we can't," Repking added. "I'm the biggest sports advocate there is, but our backs are against the wall Ñ or will be if we don't tighten our belts now."

A number of people wondered why the girls fresh-soph basketball was on a chopping block, while the boys program would remain intact. Siemer said participation numbers played a big role in that proposal. He added the girls high school program had 22 players, while the boys had twice that many.

The recurring question in more than an hour of public comment was, in effect, "Is this really necessary?"

One man suggested board members observe a grade school classroom with 30 children.

"Can 30 desks even go into a classroom?" added one woman.

One woman asked the board if the community could get involved to save some of these programs.

"We've got good programs, and we're going to throw it all away," she said. "I think you need to get more input from different walks of life."

The board agreed to set a special meeting for 6:30 p.m. March 4 to further discuss the proposed cuts. Siemer said the board will make its final decisions on cuts at its March 11 regular meeting.

A site for the March 4 meeting was not set Monday. Superintendent Bill Fritcher said the meeting would be at either the high school or junior high cafeterias, or the grade school gymnasium.

In action taken Monday, the board:

* Approved resignations from part-time lawn maintenance man Dick Henry, junior high cheerleading co-sponsors Kari McManaway and Amy Soumakian and junior varsity boys tennis coach Becky Schumacher.

* Hired Terry Kimpling as JV boys tennis coach and Jenna Funneman as junior high track coach.

The board also set high school graduation for 2:30 p.m. May 12 and junior high promotion for 7:30 p.m. May 15.

Also Monday, the board agreed to seek bids for resurfacing the district track. Fritcher said a complete renovation would cost around $150,000, while a basic resurfacing would cost about $50,000. He emphasized the board was not obligated to approve any bids.

Bill Grimes can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 132, or at bill.grimes@effinghamdailynews.com